President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “In the Book of Mormon we find a pattern for preparing for the Second Coming.” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p59) By understanding the pattern in 3 Nephi, a pattern that begins in Helaman, we can prepare ourselves for the difficult days that lie ahead. Of course, this is true only if we give heed to the pattern and warning contained therein.
Below is a chart called, “The Coming of Christ to the Nephites: A Pattern for His Second Coming.” It is divided into three sections from top to bottom, they are signs, wickedness, and destruction. And from left-to-right, there are three columns the first are the scripture references to Christ’s coming to the Nephites and the conditions leading up to it, the second column is the event mentioned in the scripture, and the third column is the scriptural reference to the Second Coming of Christ and conditions leading up to it. Notice the events are the same.
The Coming of Christ to the Nephites: A Pattern for His Second Coming
|Helaman 14:2-6, 20-27; 3 Nephi 8:2-23||Great signs in heaven and on earth||D&C 45:39-42; 29:14; JS-Matthew 1:33|
|Helaman 14:28-31||Purpose of signs: To save mankind-all left without excuse||D&C 29:11,14-17; 39:22-24, 45:16, 31-39, 49-50, 63:6-7; 68:9-11|
|Helaman 16:12-23; 3 Nephi 1:4, 15-22; 2:1-3||As prophecies are fulfilled people become more evil||D&C 45:26-33; 112:23-24; JS-Matthew 1:38-43|
|Helaman 16:15-22; 3 Nephi 7:15-26; 8:4||Increased skepticism concerning Christ’s coming||D&C 45:26; 2 Peter 3:3-4|
|Helaman 13:21-23; 3 Nephi 6:11-13||Pride is the basis of wickedness||D&C 29:9; 64:24; 38:39|
|3 Nephi 6:17-18; 7:7||People willfully rebel||D&C 64:34-36; 112:24-26|
|3 Nephi 6:23; 7:14||People reject the Prophets||D&C 1:14; 135:1-7; 133:71-72; 136:35-36|
|3 Nephi 6:11-14||Pride and evil in the Church||D&C 38:39; 41:1; 50:2-4; 63:63; 98:19-22|
|Helaman 11:1; 3 Nephi 3-4||Wars and rumors of wars||D&C 45:26, 68; 63:32-33|
|Helaman 10:18; 11:4||People killing one another||D&C 45:33, 68; 63:33; 130:12|
|Helaman 13:13-14||People saved or destroyed based on how they receive or reject the righteous||D&C 99:4; 109:39-41; 84:92-97|
|Helaman 10:6; 12:3||Plagues, pestilence, famine||D&C 43:25; 84:96-97; 87:6; 45:31; 29:18-19; JS-Matthew 1:29|
|3 Nephi 6:25-30||Secret combinations destroy society and government||D&C 38:28; 42:64; 123:13-14; Mormon 8:34-40; Ether 8:20-25|
|Helaman 14:23, 26; 3 Nephi 8:5-6; 10:14||Tempest, great storms, thundering, lightnings||D&C 43:20-25; 87:6; 88:88-91|
|3 Nephi 8:6-19||Earthquakes & great disturbances||D&C 45:26, 33, 48; 49:23; 29:13, 43:18, 25; 88:88-89|
|3 Nephi 8:20-23; 10:13-14||Vapor of smoke and darkness||D&C 45:40-42; 29:14; 34:9|
|Helaman 14:21-23; 3 Nephi 8:23; 9:8||Mountains made low as a valley, valley becomes great mountains||D&C 49:23; 109:74|
|Helaman 14:24; 15:1; 3 Nephi 8:8-14; 10:7||Cities destroyed, houses left desolate||D&C 84:114-117|
|3 Nephi 8:1-18, 9:1-12||Wicked destroyed at His coming||D&C 29:9; 63:34; 87:6-8; 136:33-36|
|3 Nephi 8:23-24; 10:8||Great mourning and weeping||D&C 45:53; 87:6; 29:15; 112:24|
We’re not going to go over this in class today, but I give you this for your own elucidation and edification.
Jesus, speaking to the Prophet Joseph said:
And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man. And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath. (D&C 45:39-40)
And to the saints in Jerusalem, just a few days before he was crucified said, he said:
And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived, for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:37)
So with that in mind, let’s talk about chapters 1 through 7 in the book of Third Nephi, or as Donald Trump might say, Three Nephi.
3 Nephi 1
We’re going to start by discussing some of the events that came right before the signs that announced the birth of the Savior. Verse 4 through 9 of chapter 1:
4 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
5 But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
6 And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: “Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.”
7 And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.
8 But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.
9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.
That seems like pretty extreme behavior, isn’t it? Surely that kind of behavior doesn’t occur in the 21st Century. Or does it? Can you think of modern-day examples where one group of people who believe in one thing so much that they are willing to put to death those who believe something different?
Why do people behave this way? What reasons can you think of why seemingly sane people are so opposed to the believers?
- The moral lifestyle and eternal principles of the righteous threaten the wickedness of the opposition.
- There are those seeking for power by appealing to the carnality of man and approving of it.
- A strong majority of righteous believers would reduce or eliminate their power.
So how did the prophet Nephi respond to this crisis? We’ll, let’s read verses 10 through 14 and find out.
10 Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
11 And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.
12 And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day….
Notice that even the prophet does not have a direct conduit to Heavenly Father. Nephi spent his entire day in mighty prayer before he patiently got his answer. Sometimes, and sometimes fairly often, the Lord needs to see just how important something is to us before he provides an answer. Besides, this was a particularly busy day over on the pre-mortal world. The heavenly choirs were in their final dress-rehearsals for that night’s big performance for the handful of shepherds in the Judean hillside, just outside of Bethlehem.
Here’s what the voice of the Lord said. Which is an interesting statement in and of itself. Many believe that this couldn’t have been the actual voice of the Lord’s spirit because he was presently in Mary’s womb enjoying a bumpy donkey ride to Bethlehem. Some say it was the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, who obvious speaks only the words of the Father and the Son. Others say that perhaps this was a heavenly messenger who had been set apart and given a divine investiture of authority to speak for and in behalf of God. I don’t suppose it really matters who said it, because the Lord’s words, whether they are spoken by himself or by his authorized servants, “it is the same.” (D&C 1:38). And this was the message:
13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
14 Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.
So what were those signs prophesied five years earlier by Samuel the Lamanites? Let’s look at verse 15.
15 And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.
Okay, so the first sign was that there would be no darkness at the setting of the sun. So how is that possible?
One of my academic heroes, Hugh Nibley, once suggested to his students that the sign could have been a supernova, comparing it to one in AD 1054 which “could be seen all over the world” and “was almost as bright as the sun.”
Something similar happened on June 30, 1908 in Russia. Known as the Tunguska event, there were an atmospheric explosion that astronomers aren’t quite sure how to explain. According to NASA, “Night skies glowed, and reports came in that people who lived as far away as Asia could read newspapers outdoors as late as midnight.” In Germany it was reported that at 1:15 AM it was as light as daytime.
If you’re interested, here’s a link to learn more about this:
Like the night without darkness reported by the Nephites, both of these bright nights still mystify even the best scientific minds as to how they happened. All we know is that they did happen. We do not need to know now how God works his miracles only that he does so to speak to his children.
Regardless of how God accomplished the night without darkness reported in the Book of Mormon the symbolism of Christ’s birth as a source of light is what shines forth. In fact, that symbol was the foundation of the second sign, which was also seen on the other side of the world. It is found in verse 21
21 And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.
Again, a supernova would explain the bright skies and the new star, which later disappeared—just sayin’.
But miracles, signs, and wonders never do convert people. They simply promote faith in the faithful. Want proof of that? Look in the very next verse, verse 22:
22 And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen; but notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord.
Satan—about the only virtue he has is consistency. You can always count on him showing up when people start to move towards the light. Like fruit-flies on a bowl of ripe peaches, like gum on the bottom of your shoe, like aphids on a rose, like weevils in your wheat, like ants at a picnic, like crickets to your crops, like friends of scouting knocking on your door—he always makes his presence known. But notice that at this point in time, the more part of the people did believe. Of course, as we’re about to find out, they weren’t converted for long.
3 Nephi 2
You see, over in chapter 2 we read that the Gadianton robbers were becoming more and more popular. Rather than earning a living, these thugs took what they wanted. And if you didn’t cooperate, if you didn’t pay their extortion fees, they took what they wanted anyway, including your wives and daughters, slayed the others, and laid waste to city after city, spreading death and carnage as they went.
So how did the righteous Nephites and Lamanties respond? Let’s look at verse 12:
12 Therefore, all the Lamanites who had become converted unto the Lord did unite with their brethren, the Nephites, and were compelled, for the safety of their lives and their women and their children, to take up arms against those Gadianton robbers, yea, and also to maintain their rights, and the privileges of their church and of their worship, and their freedom and their liberty.
Someday, we may be called upon to do the same thing. In fact, I’d argue that right now we are called upon to stand up and fight for the rights and privileges given to us by our Creator and by our Constitution. This may not involve a weapon of steel—but it may certainly be a weapon of words and ideas as we try to persuade those in our sphere of influence to not be apathetic and watch on the sidelines as our country disintegrates before our very eyes. Talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, talk on your social media streams, and remind others that in spite of what the majority of people seem to be doing in our nation, we will still hold up the constitution in our own lives and communities.
3 Nephi 3
So not only did the righteous Nephites and Lamanites respond to the threat by taking up arms, they also cried unto the Lord for strength against the time when the robbers would come against them. Let’s read that verse, which is chapter 3, verse 12:
12 Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers, but he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them.
Then, armored with weapons of all kinds, and pleading for the protection of divine providence, the people physically banded together into one central place. They took their families and flocks and food and possessions with them—leaving only empty houses and harvested land behind. They then built fortifications around them and placed guards to watch over them day and night. And then, with a continually repentant heart, they watched and waited for the inevitable siege.
Some wanted to leave the protection of the group and go out and attack the enemies, but their righteous leaders felt inspired to tell them to stay put, remain prayerful and vigilant, and place their trust in the Lord. Excellent advice for us in our present and forthcoming adversities.
3 Nephi 4
Let’s now turn the page into chapter 4, verses 7 through 10 and read about this great battle.
7 And it came to pass that they did come up to battle; and it was in the sixth month; and behold, great and terrible was the day that they did come up to battle; and they were girded about after the manner of robbers; and they had a lamb-skin about their loins, and they were dyed in blood, and their heads were shorn, and they had head-plates upon them; and great and terrible was the appearance of the armies of Giddianhi, because of their armor, and because of their being dyed in blood.
8 And it came to pass that the armies of the Nephites, when they saw the appearance of the army of Giddianhi, had all fallen to the earth, and did lift their cries to the Lord their God, that he would spare them and deliver them out of the hands of their enemies.
9 And it came to pass that when the armies of Giddianhi saw this they began to shout with a loud voice, because of their joy, for they had supposed that the Nephites had fallen with fear because of the terror of their armies.
10 But in this thing they were disappointed, for the Nephites did not fear them; but they did fear their God and did supplicate him for protection; therefore, when the armies of Giddianhi did rush upon them they were prepared to meet them; yea, in the strength of the Lord they did receive them.
And thus the greatest and most devastating battle that the people of Lehi had ever experienced commenced. Tens of thousands died and the robbers were driven back. Thousands of the robbers surrendered to the Nephites, and if they didn’t surrender, they were slain. Then, all of the righteous Nephites and Lamanites fell to their needs and thanked God for their deliverance.
3 Nephi 5
And then, over in chapter 5, we see the aftermath. Let’s look at verses 1 through 6.
1 And now behold, there was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled.
2 And they knew that it must be expedient that Christ had come, because of the many signs which had been given, according to the words of the prophets; and because of the things which had come to pass already they knew that it must needs be that all things should come to pass according to that which had been spoken.
3 Therefore they did forsake all their sins, and their abominations, and their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night.
4 And now it came to pass that when they had taken all the robbers prisoners, insomuch that none did escape who were not slain, they did cast their prisoners into prison, and did cause the word of God to be preached unto them; and as many as would repent of their sins and enter into a covenant that they would murder no more were set at liberty.
5 But as many as there were who did not enter into a covenant, and who did still continue to have those secret murders in their hearts, yea, as many as were found breathing out threatenings against their brethren were condemned and punished according to the law.
6 And thus they did put an end to all those wicked, and secret, and abominable combinations, in the which there was so much wickedness, and so many murders committed.
Now, this would be a perfect place to end the play. Unfortunately, just because the attackers from without were either converted or destroyed, it still didn’t stop Satan from popping back into the scene and start attacking the righteous from within. So let’s turn over to chapter 6, which takes place just a few years later, and learn about some of the tactics that Satan used against the righteous then, and still uses today.
3 Nephi 6
10 But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;
11 For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers.
12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.
13 Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.
14 And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.
15 Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.
16 And thus Satan did lead away the hearts of the people to do all manner of iniquity….
So let’s recap, the way Satan gained so much power among the righteous in so short a period of time was that he tempted them to seek for power, recreation, carnality, and wealth which led to self-centeredness, pride, and all manner of inequalities. And the church was broken up. Why? Let’s look at verse 18:
18 Now they did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them, for it had been taught unto them; therefore they did willfully rebel against God.
Of course the Lord was still merciful and sent out another round of prophetic messengers to invite them to repent and return to Christ. But the rebellious people were now angry—so angry that they illegally captured and killed these prophets. And, to cover up their crimes, they hired lawyers and bribed judges, and re-instituted the secret combinations.
You see, Satan wasn’t done yet. Not only did he want to get rid of the church, but he wanted to destroy the government and turn the nation over to chaos. A feat which he accomplished over in chapter 7.
3 Nephi 7
In verse 1 and 2, we find that the chief judge over the land was murdered and the government was destroyed. It its place, the people divided themselves into tribes, based on their family and friends. Let’s read verse 5-8.
5 … and all this iniquity had come upon the people because they did yield themselves unto the power of Satan.
6 And the regulations of the government were destroyed, because of the secret combination of the friends and kindreds of those who murdered the prophets.
7 And they did cause a great contention in the land, insomuch that the more righteous part of the people had nearly all become wicked; yea, there were but few righteous men among them.
8 And thus six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire.
Later on, we see that an anti-Christ named Jacob arose and united the wicked tribes together, leaving just a loose confederation of tribes who were united against Jacob. Nephi, tried his best to administer to these people, but they were angry with him and only a few were converted.
At the beginning of the class, I mentioned that President Benson said that within the Book of Mormon we will find a pattern for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The handout I gave you should help us see that pattern taking place among us. There are a number of things that have already happened, and there will be a number yet to come.
Hopefully, today’s lesson has helped us better understand the need to endure faithfully in times of trial and temptation. May you and I continue to listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as we prepare ourselves and our youth to face the increasingly-intense battles between good and evil that still lie ahead. And then, as we are wounded, as each of us surely shall be, we will be there for each other, bind our wounds, lift our heads, and pray for even more faith.